Blackberry Sour Cream Waffles

A couple of months ago I was invited to dinner at the house of my friends Lavinia and Deni (you may remember them from this post here). Deni, who is Hungarian, made us a delicious Hungarian meal (a preview if you will for the trip we were to take to Budapest not long after, where we ate stupendously). He prepared a cauliflower and carrot soup, roast chicken and potatoes with a side of pickles, and a dessert made with chestnuts and whipped cream, plus offered us p├ílinka, Hungary's traditional fruit brandy, in all different flavors. But back to that first course -- when it came time to eat the cauliflower soup, Deni disappeared briefly in to the kitchen and reappeared, like magic, with a container in his hand. “Sour cream, to top the soup?”

I nearly gasped.

Sour cream is used quite a bit in American cuisine, as a topping for Tex Mex enchiladas, tacos, or chili, in dips, or, most importantly, in lots of American baking where it lends a certain tenderness, richness and tangy-ness, improving every baked good it touches. It can be used in cheesecakes, muffins, cakes, pie crusts, pie fillings, and even scones and biscuits. And sour cream, you see, was supposed to be one of those ingredients like buttermilk, cheddar cheese, okra, sweetened shredded coconut, Graham crackers, and (not mini) milk chocolate chips, or rather, things I had never seen in Italy and had always known to be unavailable here. Sighting sour cream in Rome was the culinary equivalent of spotting a comet that passes once every 100-something years, or an animal that was thought to have been extinct for ages, but had reappeared. What was it doing here?!

“Where’d you get that?!” I demanded.

“What, the sour cream? Pam, the supermarket,” they answered. “Not all of the Pams have them, but some do. So do you want some?”

Yes, yes I did, thank you very much.

A couple of months after that, in a small supermarket not even close to where I live, I, like magic, stumbled upon sour cream (panna acida in Italian) again in the dairy aisle, hidden among the heavy cream and butter. It was the same brand that Deni and Lavinia had found at Pam. I seized the occasion – who knows when it would arise again?! – and grabbed two containers, hurried home, and subsequently made these Blueberry Pie Bars and then Blackberry Sour Cream Waffles.

Even in the heat of the Roman summer I still find breakfast doable – the morning is the time before the heat has really sunk its teeth in, and before the thought of eating anything above room temperature is unbearable. Plus the waffle iron, unlike the oven or the stove, doesn't heat the kitchen up, and having procured my beloved sour cream and picked up some lovely looking blackberries, I decided to strike while the (waffle) iron was hot and whip up these waffles. These are tender and fluffy thanks to all the sour cream, cinnamon scented to boot, studded with tart sapphire-like blackberries and scrumptious when served with maple syrup and extra berries on top. I loved them and I think you will too. 

A couple of notes: You could substitute blueberries or raspberries for the blackberries here if you'd like. If you don't have whole wheat flour, you can use just all-purpose flour no problem. If you can't find sour cream where you are, I'm sorry! but you can substitute plain full-fat yogurt with good results. The amount of blackberries may seem relatively small, but as I learned, too many blackberries that get subsequently squished in the waffle iron and make the waffles tricky to remove from the waffle iron in one whole waffle piece. If you don't care about presentation, and want your waffles extra blackberry-y, then go ahead and add more. You can keep the waffles warm on a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven as you cook the others. Finally, feel free to add a little lemon zest here instead of the cinnamon, if you want Blackberry Lemon Waffles.

Looking for other waffle recipes? I have these Banana Pecan Waffles, these Savory Prosciutto and Cheese Waffles with a Fried Egg, and these ever so perfect Classic Waffles. Prefer pancakes to waffles? I've got these Cornmeal Blueberry Pancakes, these Pumpkin Pancakes, these Classic Pancakes, and these Savory Squash Pancakes. Prefer french toast to pancakes or waffles? I've got Pumpkin French Toast and these Individual Baked French Toasts. Want other blackberry recipes? I've also got this Blackberry Cheesecake Galette

BLACKBERRY SOUR CREAM WAFFLES

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons (42 grams) butter, melted and cooled 
3/4 cup (140 grams) blackberries
5 tablespoons (50 grams) sugar, divided
1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (98 grams) whole wheat flour (see comment in Notes)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
3/4 cup (180 grams) milk
1 cup (224 grams) sour cream

Directions:
Place the blackberries in a small bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the sugar; mix together and set aside. 
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, sour cream, melted butter, and vanilla. In another separate medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Add the blackberries and stir once or twice to incorporate them. Preheat the waffle iron according to the manufacturer's instructions (mine only takes a few minutes to heat up).

Once the waffle iron is hot brush with extra melted butter so your waffles don't stick. Using a ladle, distribute the batter evenly over the waffle iron surface, keeping in mind that the batter will spread a little when you close the waffle iron. Close the iron and let the waffles cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until golden brown. Use a fork to carefully remove the waffle from the oven and slide it on to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter to make more waffles. Serve your Blackberry Sour Cream Waffles with maple syrup, extra blackberries, and if you want to do as I did, a glass of blood orange juice. Makes 4 large waffles.

Recipe adapted from www.food.com.











Peach Cobbler

One of my dearest frolleagues (friend and colleague) and an ardent follower of this blog once pointed out that the best way to eat seasonal fruit and veg was essentially just leaving them as is. For example, if tomatoes are their peak in the Summer, just slice them and eat them with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil, at most  most, and if cherries are at their best, he reasoned, it would be best to eat them fresh, no need to stem and pit and bake them in to a pie (he was skeptical when I told him I had taken to roasting cherries for Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini -- in hindsight, I can sort of see his point). In his book, the less one does, the better, and I certainly agree -- let cherry-ness or the tomato-ness or the blueberry-ness shine when they're at their best, no need to confuse the natural flavor with other ones. 

And yet.

If you're of the same idea then, I guess you wouldn't want to take a bunch of seasonal, at-their-best peaches, slice them, toss them with a little lemon juice, and bake them until even juicier and sweeter, now would you? You would probably also be against topping the aforementioned peaches with a cake-y, buttery, topping, the perfect vehicle to absorb all those lovely peach juices and add a little texture contrast, just barely sweet in order to let the peaches shine. I'd go as far as to presume as well then that serving this warm out of the oven with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream would be a bad idea too, right? You would thus probably not be a fan of the resulting Peach Cobbler, and would most certainly have no problem turning down a serving of it for dessert, correct?!

Hmmm. 

I've come to conclude that sometimes, just sometimes, less isn't necessarily always more, and that occasionally, a few little touches here and there can actually take something that is already great to other levels of greatness, albeit slightly fancier, more elaborate ones. Peach Cobbler (a dessert from the American south, if you're not familiar) exemplifies this, taking already delicious summer-y peaches and dressing them up a little, elevating them from simple summer snack to perfect summer dessert. This recipe (from my culinary bible, Bon Appetit) is just what a cobbler should be -- its simple and straightforward, peach-centric and downright delicious, plus it was a cinch to make and was in the oven before I knew it. Because when you have a dessert this good, the last thing you want to do is have to wait too long to eat it, right? 

A couple of notes: You could probably add a handful of raspberries or blueberries or strawberries to this cobbler to make it a Peach Berry Cobbler. Feel free to add a little cinnamon to the peaches or topping if you want too. Serve this warm with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and you won't regret it, or eat the leftovers cold out of the fridge like my sister and I did -- its surprisingly refreshing when its over 100 degrees out. 

Looking for other Summer fruit desserts? I've got this Blueberry Pie, these Blueberry Pie Bars, this Plum Cobbler with Cinnamon Biscuits, this Summer Berry Cake, these Strawberry Chocolate Shortcakes, this Blackberry Cheesecake Galette, and these Raspberry and Blueberry Shortcakes. Want other recipes with peaches? I've got this Peach Raspberry Buckle and this salad with Peaches, Burrata, and Arugula. For good measure while we're on the topic of cobblers -- this savory Cherry Tomato Cobbler with Gruyere Biscuits.

PEACH COBBLER

Ingredients:
6 large peaches, cut into wedges (not too thick or too thin -- see my photos below)
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 cup (130 grams) flour
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (12 tablespoons, or 168 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup (59ml) boiling water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 Fahrenheit (215 degrees Celsius).

In a medium bowl, toss the peaches together with the sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Pour the peaches in to a lightly buttered 2-qt. baking dish. Bake the peaches in the oven for about 10 minutes to give them a head start.
Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles sand (or, if its super hot out where you are like it was in Rome when I made this, the resulting mixture will look more like a dough as the butter will melt faster than you can blend it in). Stir in the water until just combined -- the mixture should look like a batter now.
When the 10 minutes are up, remove the peaches from the oven. Drop spoonfuls of topping over them, then use a spoon to spread the mixture evenly over the peaches. Put your cobbler back in the oven and bake until the topping is golden brown, about 25 minutes. 
Let the cobbler cool for at least half an hour before eating to let the juices and peaches set a bit. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Serves 4-6.


Recipe from www.epicurious.com.











Venice

Happy August everyone! I have no food or recipes to offer you this week, but I can tell you about the few days my sister and I recently spent in Venice, which is just as good, right?! Venice after all is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy if not the whole world, a place so gorgeous that it feels almost fake (I had to remind myself a few times I wasn't in Disney World). This was my first trip there in a while -- my last one was all the way back in 2010 -- and much like my recent trip to Naples, I felt I could appreciate the city more this time around. Whereas before I had found the city to be crowded, overwhelming, and overly tourist-y (still true) I perhaps didn't notice as much, having lived in Rome -- a city that is not short on chaos and tourists -- for a while now. While Venice is indeed packed with visitors and overly busy, I also found it to be picturesque, with lots of good restaurants and cafes, if you know where to look, not to mention surprisingly quiet and peaceful at night. With no further ado, here are the highlights of the trip...!

CARLOS & CHRISTINA'S WEDDING
So! The purpose of our trip to Venice was for the wedding of our friend, Christina, who you may remember from this post on Padova, where she has been working as a teacher at the International School of Padova. Christina is a Brit, having grown up in the UK, but also Cypriot, as her parents and family were all born and raised in Cyprus -- the groom, Carlos (aka Charlie) is from Mexico, and the two of them got married in the Greek Orthodox church in Venice, Italy, with some American, Swedish, and Moroccan guests thrown in to the mix as well, so needless to say it was quite the international wedding. As you can see below, my sister and I were very excited to be there:
The Greek Orthodox ceremony was interesting to observe following a Hindu wedding ceremony and an Armenian wedding ceremony in June (remember, I was invited to 8 weddings this year). While some things reminded me a bit of a Catholic ceremony, there were a few traditions that were different in the Greek Orthodox ceremony -- the bride and groom entered the church together, to signify that they're now united going forward in life, and there were two crowns the bride and groom wore at certain points in the ceremony to also represent this. Christina's brother is a Greek Orthodox priest and conducted the ceremony, which was in a mix of Italian, Greek, and Spanish -- very cool. Below are some photos of the happy couple (fun fact: ever the artist, Christina made her own necklace) the ceremony, the bridesmaids in green with snazzy heart shaped sunglasses, and Lars and Houda, two guests that were dressed to the nines like two paparazzi-worthy celebrities and merited a photo or two.
It's not a wedding in Venice without a trip around the canals! After the ceremony, all the guests hopped on to water taxis to take a tour around the city before heading to the reception. This was a great way to see all Venice in all its splendor -- I repeat, is there any city more beautiful?! -- and also catch up with our friends Yasmin and Hannah, who had also lived in Rome teaching at the same international school as Christina before taking teaching jobs in Mexico and Spain, respectively. We hadn't seen each other in three years (!!!) but it felt like no time had passed at all. Here we are!
An emotional wedding ceremony plus a trip around the canals made us all hungry, so as soon as we arrived at the reception at the Hotel Bauer, we got to eating. After enjoying a few antipasti and a bit of Prosecco, we started the meal off with octopus and citrus salad, then burrata and crab ravioli, and finally filet mignon and vegetables, finishing the meal off with chocolate mousse with berries and then lemon and ricotta wedding cake. The food was excellent -- what do you expect from a wedding in Italy?! -- and the company was great. Charlie and Christina have lovely families and friends and it was a beautiful day, full of good food, lots of laughter, some (happy) tears, pretty much the perfect wedding. At risk of sounding cheesy -- it was just the heart-filling sort of day I needed after having a tough-ish time at my new job, a mini-vacation of sorts that I'll be relying on to get me through a Summer with no extended vacation planned. Thank you for inviting us to your wedding, Charlie and Christina -- and congrats!!!
 



REUNION + APERITIVO WITH MARTA
We had not one but two reunions in Venice, one with Christina, Yasmin, and Hannah and another with our friend Marta, who you may also remember from this post on Padova. Marta (who we met back in our Bologna days) is one of the warmest, funniest, and kindest people I know, and we were so happy to have a whole day to chat and catch up with her. She's no stranger to Venice, having studied there, so the day after the wedding she showed us around the city. As for the foodie highlights? We enjoyed a couple of spritzes near the canal -- you can't go to Venice without having a spritz! -- as well as some cicchetti at Cantine del vino gia' schiavi (highly recommended). You won't find cicchetti in Rome; they're a Venetian thing, small pieces of bread with various toppings, meant to be enjoyed pre-dinner as part of the traditional Italian aperitivo (aperitif). Apart from being fun to say (pronounced chee-ket-ee) they're also super fun to eat -- we ordered three glasses of Prosecco and then opted for cicchetti with mozzarella and tomato, pistachio cream, pumpkin and parmesan, basil and ricotta, and, strangest of all, tuna with a dusting of cocoa powder. If this seems like an odd combination, that's because it definitely is -- but it actually worked beautifully. It was all the more delicious eaten right beside the canals. Photos below!



ETC ETC
On our last day to Venice, we meant to visit the island of Burano, but, after sleeping a bit too late and doing a few quick calculations, we realized that by the time we got the boat to Burano and came back to Venice in time to catch our train, we'd have a bit less than an hour to spend there. In the end we decided to save Burano for late August and instead spend the last day visiting Piazza San Marco, walking around the city, and, most importantly, enjoying a few tramezzini. If you're not familiar, tramezzini are sandwiches made on soft white bread, no crusts, and something you'll find in most cafes in Italy. The tramezzini found in Venice, however, are super farciti, or really well stuffed, almost overly filled, with a variety of ingredients that put any skinny Roman tramezzino to shame. We got ours at the bar right next to Ristorante del Theatro -- the ownership is the same, its just the bar is much cheaper than the restaurant -- and opted for turkey and tomato on our first round, then tuna and then prosciutto cotto on our second. They were simple but delicious, perfect paired with a Spritz, and a nice way to close our three days in Venice.


I'll be back next week with some very summer-y, American recipes, but in the meantime here are some photos of the city that will hopefully transport you from your office (or wherever you find yourself in this sweltering hot week of August) straight to a vacation in Venice. Note: if you're looking for a good bed and breakfast in the area, we stayed in and highly recommend B&B Ca' Barba, right near the Mercato Rialto stop. Have a good week everyone!